A Trip To The East Coast & Blueberry Crisp

Blueberry Crisp

I’m still a little unclear of the difference between a fruit crumble and a crisp.  In all honesty, I had only heard of a crisp since living in America and mostly in the form of a blueberry crisp which I imagined was a thin layer of blueberries topped with lots of crumble mix baked until golden.  The perfect balance of fruit and crumble because I love lots of crumble.  Well it wasn’t until this trip over to the east coast that I had my first Blueberry Crisp at Cape Cod and it wasn’t all I had hoped so I made one as soon as I got home to match my expectations.  Oh yum, yum, yum.  Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream this is a perfect dessert that requires very little ingredients and very little kitchen utensils.

Blueberry Crisp

My kitchen has been pared down to a bowl, a pot, a frypan and a baking tray which my neighbour has lent me plus a wooden spoon, measuring cup, rolling pin, tongs, small chopping board and a steak knife.  I bought a couple of foil trays as well. We went on a wonderful holiday and returned back to Colorado on a flight that was very delayed due to storms which had us land at 2am.  Then the next day, on very little sleep, we focused on packing and deciding what we  need to keep for our last few weeks in the USA plus what we will need when we arrive back in Australia for the last of winter while we wait for the shipping container to arrive.

Greenwich Village

Now we are living very simply with air matresses for beds, a couple of side tables for eating off and a sofa that, once again, our lovely neighbour has lent us.  So I’m a little restricted in what I can make but so far we have been just fine and it is an eye opener to see I actually don’t need most of the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years.  We have had poached chicken in a coconut broth with a crunchy Asian salad, spicy pinto beans and tortillas, pizza, fennel and chilli pasta with pangritata and last night I roasted a beef tri-tip (is tri-tip called something else in Australia? I’ve only seen it here in the USA)  With the foil trays it is easy to throw in some blueberries and top with the crumble mix so we will have to make the most of the blueberries in season and make this a few more times as I have never seen such cheap blueberries anywhere before.

Alice in Wonderland, Central Park

It has taken me quite a few days to recover from the hectic couple of days of packing and moving but we are now focused on making the most of our time here.  The kids have a few more weeks left of swim club and the girls and I are having horse riding classes and getting more familiar with the basic care that horses need.  Joel’s parents have promised to get Tilly a horse to keep on their farm up at Millaa Millaa in Far North Queensland, so I want the girls to learn as much as they can even though they won’t be able to see the horse too often but hopefully regularly enough.  Levi is just wanting to get on the quad bike at their farm again and Elliott, no doubt, will be keen to see all the heavy machinery that his Grandad sells.  He really wants to ride the quad bike by himself but that just isn’t going to happen for quite a few more years.

Greenwich Village, New York Cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery

Our trip over to east coast started with a few days in New York and it was hot and humid.  I haven’t felt humidity for so long so it was a bit of a shock and the city felt so different from our last trip when it was snowing and just a couple of weeks out from Christmas.  But we loved it!  Central Park was so lush and green and we made plenty of time to explore it.  We took the kids to Greenwich Village which we love and had cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery and took their photo outside the house that was used as the exterior shots of the Huxtable house in The Cosby Show.  We have been watching one episode of The Cosby Show a week on Monday nights for the last year which is such a hit with the kids so it was fun to go and see the house.  We also stopped in at the Google office in Chelsea for lunch and it was brilliant.  There can’t be too many workplaces that have a big space dedicated to playing Lego or scooters parked around the building so Googlers can fast track their way around the office.  Below is the incredible view from the Google balcony.

View from the Google office

Our time in New York was so short and I didn’t get to go and see everything I wanted but we did go to Co. for pizzas on our last night.  A storm had just broken out and the restaurant was pumping but there was one round table for 6 right near the window that we were taken to and we were looked after so well. Our waitress noted Joel’s Colorado Buffs T-shirt and it turns out she too is from Boulder and her parents live quite close to us.  The pizza bases weren’t my all time favourite but the toppings were incredible and some of the combinations were inspiring so I’m excited to try and replicate them.

American Museum of Natural History

We went to The Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History which was fantastic.  The kids had just watched Night at the Museum a few days earlier so it was fun to spot some of the exhibits at the AMNH that featured in the film but that aside, there was just so much to see at the museum.  Incredible exhibits and I’m not even sure we saw half of what was on display.

American Museum of Natural History

Our next stop was Cape Cod and we stayed in the sweetest little town, Chatham.  We were quick to get ourselves some fresh lobster rolls and fish and chips and a massive bottle of Cape Cod Beer and head to the beach.  It had been a very long time since we had been to the beach and it was such a breath of fresh air after New York.  The beaches are so different to Australia but so pretty with the long wavy grass, the distinctive Cape Cod houses and all the calm inlets.  It didn’t take long until a fog rolled in and we couldn’t see out to the ocean but the kids had a good, long swim while we sat back and enjoyed the odd sip of beer with a few passerbys stopping to inquire what style Cape Cod beer we had chosen.

Lobster rolls and beer at Cape CodWatching the fog roll in at Cape Cod

Hurricane Arthur was threatening off the coastline and there had been talk that the 4th of July parade in Chatham might be cancelled but it wasn’t, however the fireworks were postponed. The weather held off for the parade and we joined the crowds to line the main street in Chatham to watch and catch some of the lollies and ice-blocks (candy and popsicles!) that were being thrown at the spectators.  We were bombarded with red, white and blue and all-American patriotism and we appreciated seeing America celebrate its independence.

4th of July Parade, Chatham 4th of July Parade, Chatham 4th of July Parade, Chatham

One of our neighbour’s friends who is from New York was quite excited to give us recommendations for places to eat at Cape Cod.  She said that we could not go to Cape Cod and not try both fried clams and raw clams.  So she sent us to Moby Dick’s at nearby Wellfleet where we lined up for a good half an hour to have a clam bake, fried clams and raw clams.  The place was packed but by the time we had finished and ready to go the crowds had diminished.  I am not an oyster lover so I didn’t know how I would go with raw clams but I found them far more enjoyable.  I preferred them over the steamed clams just because the steamed clams were quite sandy.  Normally I love steamed clams but I haven’t had sand left in the clams before so other than that negative everything else was fantastic.  The fried clams were a hit with the kids and so was the lobster.  Friends of ours whom we met up with in Massachusetts said they can get lobsters for as little as $6 a pound but you can still get cheaper in Maine!  The clam bake was under $30, I can’t remember exactly, but Joel and I were both amazed at how cheap all the seafood was.  We were in seafood heaven.

Moby Dicks, WellfleetMoby Dick's, WellfleetMarion's Pie Shop, Chatham

We spent a day in Boston and our first stop was to have a ride on the swan boats.  Tilly had read The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White for school back in California and was really keen to go and see the swan boats.  There was quite a long line but it moved quickly and we were kept entertained chatting to a couple from upstate New York whose daughter just hopped on a plane the previous day to go to Australia for a visit.  The weather was so much more pleasant than New York and we just loved Boston.  So much cleaner and it was so beautiful.  Joel noted there was a Google office in Cambridge, right next to MIT where he would love to do further study and so we stopped by to visit the museum at MIT and went for a walk through Harvard.  I did not spend near enough time in Boston and want to go back.

The Swan Boats, BostonThe Swan Boats, BostonSolar car outside MITHarvardHarvard

Friends of ours from Sydney have been living in Massachusetts for many years and said that we were visiting for the only 2 good months in the year as the snow through winter is so deep and the weather just so unrelentatingly cold.  The word is that in summer lots of ice cream shops pop up and we drove past quite a few.  Our friend Alison took us to one close by called Cherry Farm Creamery which is one of the only ones open all year round so you can traipse through the snow and eat some refreshingly cold ice cream!  But if we were to go back it has been recommended that we go to White Farms Homemade Ice Cream in Ipswich so there is another reason to go back to beautiful Massachusetts.

Cherry Farm CreameryCherry Farm CreameryMassachusetts

We really fell in love with Massachusetts with the beaches, the seafood, the ice cream, the beautiful green countryside, the history and it was so good to catch up with Aussie friends.  We wanted to scrap our plans for Vermont and just stay put but I’m glad we headed to Vermont as it was equally as stunning.  We stayed on a farm, Shearer Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast, where they have a sugaring house for maple syrup and tap about 600 trees each season.  I had never put too much thought about the process of maple syrup and it was fascinating to learn and it was hard to envisage the place covered in snow.  Our hosts, Patti and Bill, told us that the snow sometimes reaches up to the window sill so they open the window and let their grandkids sled out the window and down the hill!   Levi is super keen to come back and help with the sugaring season but it is a long way from Australia.

VermontShearer Hill Farm, VermontBaked ApplesShearer Hill Farm, VermontSugarhouse, Vermont

Patti and Bill were so lovely and made us feel right at home.  Some of their lovely teenage grandkids were there and they took our kids off to go and feed the cows.  Breakfast was baked apples with ice cream and we spent our days mostly swimming at a nearby lake.  Joel pulled out a couple of air mattresses from the car and pumped them up so the kids had rafts to take out on the water.  So between the swimming, eating burgers and ice creams and hanging out with the animals, the kids declared Vermont the best part of our holiday.  In an odd way this made Joel and I happy at our decision to return to Australia as the whole area felt so similar to the Atherton Tablelands where Joel’s parents’ farm is. The lush green hills and the freshwater lakes.  Of course it never snows at Millaa Millaa but there is still a similarity between the tablelands and Vermont in the summer so we can assure kids they will have plenty more holidays similar to our time in Vermont.

Swimming, VermontVermont

Well we crammed in a lot and we hope to have a few more adventures before we fly home. I was a blubbering, crying mess at the thought of moving to America.  Not only the thought of leaving so much behind but I was really worried about sending my kids to school in America.  I wish I could have had a little peak into the future back then – although I wouldn’t tell myself about the very first school the kids went to in Cupertino where Tilly broke her arm on her second day and the teacher said she was fine and wouldn’t let her go to the school nurse. No that bit was not nice but the school in Los Altos and in Boulder have been brilliant and everywhere we have travelled to has been so fun and most of all we have loved the skiing.  When we were all competent enough to ski together as a family it was brilliant.  We mostly stuck to blue runs when Essie and Elliott were with us but they tackled a few black runs and those are happy memories.  I’m glad I didn’t let my fears and worries stop us from moving here but I’m still unbelievably excited to return home as I really am just a homebody.

Wading in streams, VermontVermont

blueberry crisp

3 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chopped

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Lightly grease a baking dish and scatter the blueberries onto the base.  Sprinkle over the cornflour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and lemon juice and toss gently together.

In a bowl combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and salt and rub through the chopped butter with your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly.  Scatter this mix over the top of the blueberries and bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the crumble mix is golden.  Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It is worthwhile doubling or tripling the crumble mix as it can keep in ziplock bags in the freezer for a last minute dessert.

Posted in Dessert | 14 Comments

Fennel, Chilli and Parmesan Grissini

Fennel, Chilli and Parmesan Grissini

This last month has been such a whirl of activity and decision making.  The project that Joel was on at work closed down which left us with a decision to make – he could find a new team here in Boulder or back in California.  We decided instead to find a way to get home and Joel will be transferring to Australia.  So the house is packed up and we are all ready to move back home to our very much missed  and very much loved Australia!

Hiking up into the foothills for 2nd grade picnic

The temptation to stay on in Boulder was great.  This has been the most incredible place I have ever lived and I feel I could make it my home.  There is the incredible ski resorts here which so many people come here for but there is so much more to this place that you don’t experience in the resorts.  We have been so fortunate to have had this opportunity to live right here in Boulder, right at the foothills with incredible hikes, brilliant schools and so many affordable activities and classes for kids to do.  On the last day of school I joined Essie’s class for a hike and a picnic.  It was such a simple, lovely idea which was so easy to do as the school backs onto the foothills.  So the two second grade classes hiked 4 miles which involved stopping for a picnic and wading through a creek.  There are signs around warning about mountain lions and bears but they are so rare that no one worries about them.  It was such an idealic activity that I’m sure Essie will treasure forever and sums up what I love about living in Boulder.  The school takes advantage of their incredible backyard and incorporate the mountains into so much of the cirriculum and kids are encouraged to be in nature and climbing trees and playing in the school playground even if it is snowing. The relaxed approach to kids just enjoying the outdoors has been so refreshing. But we decided our move here was to have an adventure and we have certainly had that and we are looking forward to returning to Australia and being settled.

Essie with flowers for the dinner tableHanging out with Tiger, the neighbours catThe school playground Climbing trees at school

Our focus now is to enjoy as much of the summer here. Boulder has just bloomed and the grass and gardens are just growing at lightning speed.  Our garden is so different now from the snow heavy garden back in May.  Our apple tree is covered in teeny tiny apples and there is plenty of shady corners for the kids to hang out with the neighbour’s cat Tiger.  We have been cooking so much and most days we have been baking fresh bread of some sort for lunch – tortillas, pita bread, bagels, white loaves, wholewheat loaves, breadrolls, focaccia and grissini.  On the weekend we had a preliminary birthday feast for Essie’s 8th birthday.  Her birthday is not for another week but we will be away as we are leaving for a holiday to the east coast tomorrow.  So the dinner request was Fish Croquettes with Dill Mayonnaise (this was just suppose to be the entree but after they were demolished there was no room for the mains)and dessert was a homemade Blackberry Chip Ice Cream Pie. The ice cream was so good!  It was a recipe from the Bi-Rite cookbook called “Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones” which is brilliant.  I added roughly chopped chocolate to the ice cream for the last bit of churning for some texture. Bi-Rite has two cookbooks out and they are my most favourite souvenirs from San Francisco and bring back happy memories of eating their yummy ice cream in Mission Delores Park.

Blackberry Chip Ice Cream PieFish Croquettes with Dill MayonnaiseMy first batch of homemade bagels

As with every school holiday I try to get the kids into the kitchen to cook some meals.  Levi cooked one complete meal without any assistance whatsoever – grilled steaks, grilled corn, mashed potato and coleslaw.  He even made the coleslaw dressing by himself.  Essie has made the Watermelon and Mint Granita with Lime Syrup from Kate Bracks’ dessert book twice which we all love.  But now that our kitchen is packed up the cooking will slow down considerably for a while.  We will have to be creative with the limited cooking utensils we have since packing up and enjoy eating out a little more.

Watermelon and Mint Granita

On the weekend we headed up north to the Greeley Stampede for the Kids Rodeo.  Joel had convinced Elliott to sign up for the Mutton Bustin’ (putting 5 and 6 year olds on the back of a sheep where they hold on for dear life as the sheep bolts across the arena).  I did not think Elliott would do it as I was sure he would be intimidated at the sight of all the other kids falling off the running sheep.  But it made him even more excited and he couldn’t wait until his turn. He had a vest and a helmet to wear and once the sheep bolted out the gate Elliott lasted only 2 seconds before falling off.  He was disappointed at his short run and really wanted another go.  It seems that Elliott is a little bit of a brave cowboy.

Mutton Bustin' at Greeley StampedeGreeley StampedeGreeley Stampede

I shared a photo of some grissini on instagram a few weeks ago and promised to share the recipe.  It is an easy recipe to make although you do need to allow time for the yeasted dough to rise.  The kids helped make the recipe and loved rolling out the dough into snakes.  Grissini is great to pop into lunchboxes with a small container of hommus for dipping or just to have on its own.  With the spices and heat from the chilli these are really tasty just as they are but would be brilliant on a antipasto platter as an appetiser.

fennel, chilli and parmesan grissini

(adapted from Annie Rigg’s book ‘Gifts from the Kitchen’)

2 3/4 cups bread flour
3 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
3/4 cup – 1 cup milk, warmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated

In a large mixing bowl place the flour, yeast, salt, fennel and chilli.  Mix together and then make a well in the centre.  Add the warmed milk, olive oil and Parmesan and mix then knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth.

Cover the bowl and leave to rise for about one hour or until doubled in size.  Then turn the dough 0ut and knead for another minute before rolling out into a large rectangle about 5mm thick.  Cut stripes of dough that are about 1 cm wide and gently roll these to create rounded grissini sticks.  Place these on a lined baking tray.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Leave the grissini to rest for 10 minutes and then bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden.

Posted in Baking, Colorado | 13 Comments

Custer State Park and Mt Rushmore

Custer State Park

Well we are cramming in a bit of travel this Summer.  It was Joel’s birthday on Saturday and he really wanted to go and see Mt Rushmore so we planned a very last minute road trip up through Wyoming and into South Dakota.  Very little research was done into where we would camp but we hit the jackpot with Custer State Park.  We just wanted a place to pitch a tent with a picnic table and fire-pit and we got so much more. It was rolling green hills, lakes, streams and wildlife galore.  Proghorn antelope, white-tail deer, elk, wild turkeys, cottontail rabbits and most impressive wild roaming bison.  Most of the bison sightings were from a distance, dotted on the rolling hills, but at one point we turned a corner on the winding road to find a bison walking straight towards us.  We stopped the car and watched the huge animal walk past – it was a moment I don’t think any of us will forget.

BisonBisonCuster State Park Custer State Park
What we weren’t so prepared for was the drop in temperature.  It was well below 10 degrees C for the entire time and it rained through the night with a little drizzle throughout the day.  We were wishing we had booked one of the many cabins which looked like they might be warmer than our tent.  The mountains were covered in fog but the drive along Wildlife Loop was clear and we drove very slowly scanning for animals just like a safari.  Mid-morning we stopped at one of the picnic areas near a stream for birthday cake that I had carefully stored in the bottom of the esky.

Custer State Park Custer State Park Custer State Park Custer State Park

I could spend all Summer driving from park to park through America and camping.  The National Parks have clean facilities and incredible activities as well as having some of the most breathtaking landscapes.  There are plenty of informative talks and guided nature walks plus the Junior Ranger programs are free and the kids get so much out of them.  We were given a sheet of paper at Custer State Park from our friendly Campground Hosts listing all the free activities that were on during our stay which included movies about the bison in the park, an introduction to canoeing and a ‘Hook ‘em and Eat ‘em’ fishing activity.  We could have made a week of it!  There were also activities that cost money such as horse riding, off-road bison safari jeep tours and wagon rides.  We spent a fair amount of time at the horse stables befriending all the gentle horses.

Custer State Park Custer State Park

In all the parks we have stayed at there have been great camp stores.  They have all been housed in a log buildings and inside they are clean, well stocked and reasonably priced.  I was so grateful yesterday morning to drop into the camp store and get a good hot coffee and I had a very friendly lady help me as she must have spotted me staring blankly at the coffee pots!

Custer State Park Mt Rushmore
When we arrived at Mt Rushmore our hearts sank as the whole place was covered in thick fog.  We went on one of the trails and went and heard a ranger talk in the sculpture studio and hoped the fog would have cleared but it didn’t.  So we went back to the car and made ourselves a picnic lunch of sandwiches before piling back into the car.  We drove towards the exit and noted that the fog had cleared a little so we drove right back in and parked again to try our luck for the third time.  As we walked up through the entrance the presidential faces came into view and the crowd started cheering and clapping!  We had a clear view for about 15 minutes until the fog settled back in again so we were very happy and relieved we hadn’t left.  It was worth the drive for sure.  We drove home via Nebraska and across to Wyoming and back into Colorado.  So over the last week we have driven through 6 states and I think the kids will be happy to have a break from the car for awhile.

Mt Rushmore
Mt RushmoreMt Rushmore Hot Springs

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The Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Point

I have had a few people tell me about their slightly underwhelming experience of the Grand Canyon and how crazy busy it is with tourists.  It made me a little nervous that I was going to be driving the 11 hour trip from Boulder and then hit arid desert and see a great hole in the ground and then hang around a dusty campsite for 2 days with bored kids surrounded by tourists.  Thankfully, our experience was nothing like that at all and the Grand Canyon was simply spectacular!

The Grand Canyon

Our drive there started straight after school finished for the Summer holidays.  We got the three younger kids from elementary school then drove around to the middle school to pick up Levi just as a huge thunderstorm commenced.  We then drove for the next hour, very slowly, through a wild storm and flash flooding and wondered if we should hold off our trip until the next day.  But soon the skies cleared as we drove up into the mountains past all the big ski resorts, Vail, Aspen etc where there was still snow but the ski lifts were abandoned for the season.  Then the road winds down and curves with the fast flowing river.  Colorado is simply stunning.

Once we hit the Utah border right on sunset the landscape changed dramatically. We followed the Colorado River through the canyons and gullies.  It was arid for the most part with incredible sandstone sculptures that have been shaped from wind and rain over time.  Some of the mountains and rocks look like fabric has been drapped over them because of the soft, gathered curves.  Other parts of Utah were lush and green with grazing cattle and cultivated land.

UtahUtah Stop

The following day we stopped for lunch at The Three Bears Cottage Creamery in Kanab, Utah.  It was a friendly spot to get some great sandwiches to fuel us and then we got a massive ice-cream sundae to share for dessert called The Big Bad Wolf.  Well it was worth every cent to see the kids faces!

Arizona into Utah

As we hit the Arizona border we noticed the landscape change again.  The ground was thick with low lying shrubs which reminded me of coastal areas.  As we started to ascend into the National Park the landscape turned into forest.  Thick forest and large, green meadows.  We drove past a lone bison standing out in the middle of one of the meadows having a drink from a stream.  Several mule deers pranced across the road in front of us and bounded into the Aspen trees.  It was stunning and I half expected the birds to break into song like in a Disney movie.

Driving into The Grand Canyon National ParkA lone bison

As we were coming from Colorado we decided to camp at the North Rim and in hindsight I realise that all the underwhelming experiences I had been told about were from people visiting the South Rim – which is so much more popular.  Our experience at the North Rim was amazing.  Firstly, the campsite was right on the rim.  I would not go here with toddlers who like to wander!  I could not believe the location – simply amazing.  We were camped in a forest of Ponderosa Pines and the first thing that struck us was how beautiful the smell of the forest was.  The campsites were well spaced and so peaceful.

The Grand CanyonThe Grand Canyon

We set up our tent and went for a hike only to discover the canyon was less than 100 meters from our tent!  We thought we would have had to hike a fair way to get the canyon but it was all right there and it was breathtaking.  We hiked for a couple of hours around the rim. We grabbed some drinks from the camp store and found a spot on the rim to watch the sun go down.

The Grand CanyonToasting Marshmallows

The next day we got up early and took a mule ride along the rim which was so much fun.  It was our first encounter with a mule and we loved them.  Kids had to be 10 years and older in order to ride down into the canyon so we were restricted to just riding around the top of the North rim but it was a brilliant outlook.

Mule RidingHappy MuleMuleMuleThe Mule Riding LeaderMule RideMule RidingMule Riding

The kids spent the rest of the day completing the Junior Ranger activities, attending a talk about the Californian Condor and then being sworn in as Junior Ranges.  They loved it! Joel took the cover off the tent so we could have an afternoon rest looking up into the pines.  We could hear the kids chattering away outside at the picnic table, the breeze blowing through the trees, a woodpecker pecking away and see the Kaibab squirrels scuttling up the trees.  Gorgeous.  Later that afternoon we drove around to Bright Angel Point for the most spectacular outlook I have ever seen.  There was nobody there when we arrived and we settled in at a picnic table with an incredible view.  I had cooked some spicy beans before we left and we made bean burritos and warmed them on the portable stove on the griddle plate.  Such a simple, delicious dinner with views galore.  We packed up and went and sat on the rocks to watch the most glorious sunset.  One of the rangers had told us about the place and said it is where you see the best sunset in all of the United States and I think he was right.  Even the 40 minute drive to the point was breathtaking.

Bright Angel Point
Bright Angel Point

We followed the Colorado River for most of the drive back home. We stopped again at Kanab for lunch and Joel insisted on stopping in at an op shop where the kids got some notepaper and they wrote about their highlights of the trip, wrote poems and drew pictures in the car.  I found a great book on bread making and Joel got his usual stash of vinyl records to add to his collection.  It was pretty hot weather driving home and the river looked so tempting.  We had heard though that it is so cold that it is advisable not to swim in but after many hours of driving the temptation got too much and we pulled over to just wade our feet in.  It was cold but it was just what we needed to keep us going on the long drive back home. Kids eventualy fell asleep and we just finished listening the the final chapter of the audio book The Adventure of Tom Sawyer as we pulled into our street late last night.

River WadingRiver

America has so much breathtaking landscape. We loved our little road trip and loved our time in the Grand Canyon.  It was so peaceful and beautiful and exceeded all our expectations.  Stunning landscape, mule rides, massive ice-cream sundaes, sundowners overlooking the canyon and lots of happy family memories. But the sight of the Rocky Mountains was the most exciting as we knew we were almost home!

The Rocky Mountains

Posted in Camping, Colorado | 8 Comments

Aussie Meat Pies

Aussie Meat Pies

Summer holidays are almost here and that has kept us very busy with end of school year concerts, field trips and last minute assignments.  How can life get so busy here after only having moved to Boulder 3 months ago?  Besides the busyness, we have all settled here so very quickly.  We love our neighbourhood and have such welcoming neighbours.

Aussie Meat Pies

On either side of us we have families who have each just had their youngest child graduate from high school.  Both young men are about to embark on a new life in a new city and it seems so sad that they are leaving.  We have only known these families for such a short time but I love how we have been invited to be apart of their graduation celebrations, how Elliott loves to run out and chat to the neighbours whilst they wash their car or do some gardening.  Our quiet street fills up with the neighbour kids and all their teenage friends and they entertain our kids for ages playing tennis, frisbee and skateboarding on the road.  They all seem to be such lovely, responsible, mature young adults.  It will be so quiet here when they leave for college.  I really hope my own kiddos choose to go to university in the same city, close to home!

Speaking of home, I made meat pies for dinner a couple of weeks ago.  Food for the homesick Australian.  Joel travelled back to California to give some lectures at the main campus and I wanted to cook up something uniquely Australian for dinner when he returned.  It was such a hit with the whole family that I have made these pies on three separate occasions in as little weeks.  I took a plate of mini pies to a party last week where they were quickly devoured but never again will I make mini ones – so time consuming.  I picked up a great tin with 6 pastry molds where the base measures 9cm in diameter.  This is the perfect pie size however to make it even easier you could just make one big family pie.

Aussie Meat Pies

Puff pastry is very hard to come by over here and if you do find it expect to pay through the nose for it.  A reader awhile ago told me I should give rough puff pastry a go.  It took me  awhile to work up the courage but I did and it worked a treat.  I have made it now several times and very satisfied with the layers of puffed pastry.  The first batch I made was the best but sadly I can’t remember what cookbook I made it from (one of the downsides to having too many cookbooks).  The other times I made the Rough Puff from Kate Bracks’ book, The Sweet Life, and it has been great and super easy.  The shortcrust pastry recipe I use is a Donna Hay one which I have in this recipe for Caramelised Onion and Blue Cheese Tart.  It is quite short and I do think a flaky pie pastry would be better for a meat pie.  My mum uses the Flaky Pastry recipe in The Commonsense Cookery Book and I think in hindsight I should use that one as it is perfect in my mum’s delicious lentil pies she does.  I will leave the choice of pastry to you but I will try to share a proper instructional post one day on Rough Puff Pastry as it is a great recipe to have.  I’ll also be trying my hand at the Flaky Pastry next time I make these meat pies and share the results.

To make these pies a complete meal then be sure to serve them with mashed potato, peas (or mushy peas if you are that way inclined) and tomato sauce (AKA ketchup).  All the kids were loving it but the funny thing is that I can’t even be sure they have had meat pies in Australia.  I know Joel and I would on occasion buy a meat pie at Yatala but the kids have never been there.  It is funny how being an expat makes you feel a connection with things that you weren’t that close to back home.

Horses

As tempted as we are to buy a ranch here in Boulder and get a horse or two (I have wasted hours looking at real estate and horse sales in the area and seriously considering this possibility) I feel home calling us.  Another mum I met who moved from San Francisco bought some land here and just bought some pigs which her kids adore. However in the summer she gets bears come down to the creek on her property which would scare the living daylights out of me!  I love how you can have a country lifestyle here but be 15 minutes away from downtown Boulder.  We all love it here.  It is stunning, friendly, the schools are brilliant and living here is affordable.  Tilly, in particular, is loving the horse riding and we all love the hiking and the skiing.  It was incredibly surreal to wake up on Mothers Day and see snow falling.  We had a big snow storm and Joel had to leave that evening for sunny California (shorts and t-shirts packed in his suitcase).  Levi took on the responsibility to shovel the driveway and thankfully there was hardly any snow on the roads.  I thoroughly enjoyed the last few days of our snowy winter wonderland before summer hit.  Walking to school whilst it is snowing is something we will never experience in Brisbane. Today is meant to get up to 30 degrees C so it strange to look back at these snowy photos and think that was only a couple of weeks ago!

BoulderShoveling the drivewayBoulderBoulderBoulder  Hiking Hiking  HikingDriving home    Mountains

aussie meat pies

1 quantity of shortcrust pastry 
2 sheets of puff pastry (or half a batch of rough puff pastry)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
150g bacon slices, cut into strips
500g beef mince
4 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 1/2 cups of beef stock
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
sesame seeds

Line the base of 1 large pie dish or 6 individual tart tins with the shortcrust pastry.  Prick the base with a fork and pop in the fridge for half an hour.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) and blind bake the pastry.  Set aside to cool.

For the filling, heat a large pan over a medium heat.  Add the oil and saute the onions until soft.  Add the bacon and cook until brown.  Add the mince and brown it before adding the sauce and seasonings.  Sprinkle over the flour and cook, stirring the whole time, for about a minute and then add the beef stock.  Turn the heat down to low and cook for 20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened up and the meat is thoroughly cooked.  Check the seasonings and adjust if needed then set aside to cool.  Lots of black pepper make these pies really tasty.

Fill the pastry bases with the cooled beef filling.  Whisk the egg and milk together to make an egg wash and brush this on the edges of the pastry bases with a pastry brush.  Roll out the puff pastry to about 4mm thick and cut out the lids.  Place on top of the pie and crimp the edges with a fork. Brush the tops with the egg wash and make a slit on top.  Sprinkle over the sesame seeds and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Posted in Baking, Family Dinner | 16 Comments

Nashville Part 2 & Cranberry Bread

Cranberry Bread

This post has been a long time coming.  Way back in November I posted Nashville Part 1 and for the last 5 months I have been meaning to share some more of our trip to the deep south, especially as I gave the suggestion there would be no doubt a Part 2.  Yesterday we had afternoon tea with our neighbours who were giving us the run down on a few good restaurants in downtown Boulder and a place called Lucile’s Creole Cafe was suggested for Creole cusine, which I have yet to explore, and southern style breakfasts such as Buttermilk Biscuits, Shrimp & Grits etc.  This reminded me of all the southern food we had in Tennessee.

Arnold's

One of the trip highlights for me was having lunch at Arnold’s in Nashville.  Arnold’s is a meat and veg diner which is only open on weekdays with a set menu for each day of the week.  We had to line up for a fair while but it was part of the experience and gave us the opportunity to check out everyone else’s trays and what they were eating.  The staff were bustling around and were encouraging the customers to befriend each other at the long communal table.  There were big cups full of iced tea and plastic trays loaded with fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, fried catfish, fried green tomatoes, black eyed peas and my favourite, a baked squash.  There were also pies and I think we had a chocolate cream pie but I didn’t get much as the kids demolished it.  The food tasted like it was loaded with salt and fat but the whole experience was incredibly fun and I would go again and again if my arteries didn’t get a say.

Arnold's

We experienced our first Thanksgiving with family and Joel’s brother and sister-in-law put on an incredible feast.  Ben was in charge of the turkey and roasted it to perfection – I need a lesson.  Rachel was super organised and made so many dishes using recipes from her family and some from The Pioneer Woman.  The Jack Daniel’s Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie was my favourite and Rachel shared the recipe with me but I have yet to cook it.  I’ll be sure to make it for Thanksgiving this year.

Thanksgiving FeastThanksgiving FeastThanksgiving feast

Another recipe that Rachel shared with me was for Cranberry Bread.  It is essentially a loaf cake and it is really simple to make and very yummy, especially when it is still warm from the oven.  Fresh cranberries were plentiful around Thanksgiving.  Cranberry season starts late October but I’m sure you could use frozen cranberries if fresh ones aren’t available.

Cranberry Bread

On our final day in Tennessee we all went to Loveless Cafe for a hearty feed of biscuits and gravy, fried chicken and bottomless coffee.  And when it was time to go home it was hard to resist all the pies so I bought some to try and for the life of me I can’t remember what they were.  I think one was a Coconut Cream Pie but I’m not 100% sure.  I think the reason my memory is a little fuzzy is that I needed to block that food memory out.  I started to feel very sick that evening and felt horrible for the next 24 hours which included our flight back to California.

Loveless Cafe, NashvilleBiscuits Loveless Cafe Biscuits and GravyFried Chicken, Fried Green Tomatoes and Mac & CheeseLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless Cafe

When we had first arrived in Tenessee, Joel’s brother had been feeling unwell.  But it wasn’t until I decided to treat all our kids plus my little niece to an evening at the movies that I realised that it must be contagious.  My poor niece was sick right at the end of the movie which had me and 5 kids pushing past the big bathroom line to get the poor girl cleaned up.  Over the next few days Tilly and Levi also picked up the tummy bug and neither of them want to eat a Thanksgiving feast again.  For me, I don’t think I can eat biscuits and gravy again and I can’t even bring myself to write about them.  Suffice it to say, we loved our meal at Loveless Cafe and it was incredibly fun but I’ll have to order something different in future.  Anyway, what extended family holiday isn’t complete without a contagious tummy bug! Thankfully it only really affected our appetites and everyone was well enough to get around and see lots.

One cafe that I really liked was Frothy Monkey as they had delicious lattes.  The kids loved their steamers and one evening my curiousity got the better of me and I had to try their Rosemary Honey Latte.  It was not good, but it wasn’t bad. I guess it was just interesting and I didn’t mind the herbal hit.  But I do prefer my lattes to consist of just coffee and milk.

Rosemary Honey Latte

On our last afternoon, Rachel and I took the kids to Carnton Plantation for a tour of the house and a walk through the gardens.  A beautiful place with incredible history.  I really wish I could go and visit the gardens in the late Spring as I’m sure they would be beautiful. The skies in Nashville were very grey while we were there and it was a strong contrast to the blue skies that greeted us in California when we got home.

Carnton PlantationCarnton PlantationCarnton Plantation Carnton PlantationCarnton Plantation

I loved our time in Tennessee but left feeling that is just so much more to see so hopefully we can return.  I particularly enjoyed time with my sister-in-law who shares a love for cooking and pointed me in the direction for some Southern style recipe books.  I purchased three books mostly because the titles were so enticing – Bless Your Heart – Saving the World One Covered Dish at a Time; You Be Sweet -Sharing Your Heart One Down-Home Dessert at a Time; At My Grandmother’s Table – Heartwarming Stories & Cherished Recipes from the South.

All three books are delightful and they’ve opened my eyes to a whole new food world. There are lots of recipes that just don’t appeal to me (usually involving cans of crescent rolls, miracle whip or instant pudding mix) but I enjoy the read and some of the recipe titles just make me want to cook them:- No Flames, No Fuss, Easy Bananas Foster; Best Thing You Ever Put In Your Mouth Yellow Cake With Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing; Strawberries On A Cloud; Make Ya Wanna Slap Your Grandma Chocolate Cobbler.

Out of all these new recipes I am really enjoying this Cranberry Bread and will be making it again and again.  Thanks Rachel!

Cranberry Bread

 cranberry bread

2 cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp grated orange rind
¾ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
1 cup fresh cranberries, whole
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degree F) and grease a loaf tin.

Mix together the dry ingredients and make a well in the center. Mix in oil, orange rind, juice and egg until blended then fold in cranberries and pecans.

Bake for one hour and 10 minutes.

Posted in Afternoon Tea, Baking, Bread, Cakes | 10 Comments

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Apple Tarte Tatin with Cinnamon Ice Cream

Last week I made a very successful Rough Puff Pastry.  I’ve attempted this type of pastry a couple of times with no success so this was a triumphant moment.  I used some of the pastry to make little Apple Tarte Tatins for our Friday dessert and have popped the rest in the freezer for another day.  Puff pastry here in America is hard to come by.  I do know where I can get it but you pay through the nose for it so I don’t get it.

Boulder, Colorado

To go with the Apple Tarte Tatin I wanted to make a special ice cream.  I usually turn to the fantastically simple Ben and Jerry’s recipe book for ice cream but I wanted to do something with a creamier texture which calls for a proper custard ice cream.  In Kate Bracks’ book ‘The Sweet Life’ she has a brilliant recipe for vanilla ice cream so I started with that and tweeked it a bit here and there and added some broken cinnamon bark to infuse.  A really perfect accompaniment to the Apple Tarte Tatin and really any apple or pear dessert.

Horse RanchBoulder, Colorado    Apple Tarte Tatin with Cinnamon Ice Cream

cinnamon ice cream

450ml cream
250ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cinnamon barks, broken in half
6 egg yolks
110g caster sugar

Heat the milk, cream, vanilla and broken cinnamon in a saucepan over a medium heat. Once hot, take off the stove and set aside to allow the flavours to infuse for 20 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale.  Strain the cream mixture in slowly, whisking the whole time.  Then transfer to a saucepan and cook over a medium heat stirring constantly until thickened.  You will know the custard is ready when the mixture coats the back of the spoon and you will also notice that the mixture feels thicker as you stir.

As soon as it thickens, take it off the heat and strain it into a bowl.  Set aside to cool and then cover and place in the fridge to completely chill.  Then churn the mixture in an ice cream machine and return to the freezer for several hours or overnight.

Posted in Colorado, Dessert, Ice Cream | 6 Comments

Chocolate Pavlova

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With four children there is always something on – something to organise, something to do or something to attend.  This week there were 3 separate sports days to attend for 3 of my kids which required a great deal of my time to ensure that all my kids got my equal attention.  And then Levi came home after school on Tuesday with a broken front tooth which required a couple of trips to the dentist.  As a result the week has flown by and I swear I spent the most part of it standing on the school field shivering and willing the sun to beat harder.

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Friday nights are pizza, dessert and movie night at our house. This week’s dessert is going to be Apple Tarte Tatin with Cinnamon Ice-cream.  I have just finished churning the ice-cream which left me with 6 egg whites.  I used these leftover egg whites for a batch of Raspberry Lemon Friands but they would have been perfect for this pavlova.

This yummy Chocolate Pavlova was a special dessert from a few weeks ago when Matilda returned from her first 2 night away camp.  Her camp was up in the mountains and there had been a big snow storm so I was very anxious to have her home safe and sound again – so naturally I made a Chocolate Pavlova to prepare for her return!

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This pavlova makes me think of Christmas as I first made a similar recipe from a Christmas edition of a magazine – I think it was Inside Out magazine.  It was amazing but I couldn’t track down the old issue so I made this recipe from a ‘Books For Cooks’ book that I picked up in London.  A simple dessert to make but quite decadant and perfect for a special weekend dessert!

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chocolate pavlova

(adapted from Books For Cooks Favourite Recipes)

6 egg whites, at room temperature
a pinch of salt
350g caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon white vinegar
250ml cream
1 teaspoon caster sugar
berries

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Draw a 23cm circle on a sheet of baking paper, turn this upside down onto a baking tray.

Whisk the egg whites in a mixer with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.  Continue whisking and add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, and then whisk further until well the mix is stiff and glossy.

Sift over the cornflour and cocoa powder, pour in the vinegar and gently fold through with a spatula.  Carefully mound the meringue mix within the circle on the baking tray.  Smooth the sides and the top.  Bake for 5 minutes and then turn down the oven to 120 degrees C (250 degrees F) and cook for a further 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooden spoon then leave until the pavlova has cooled completely.  Invert the pavlova onto a serving plate.  Whip the cream with the extra sugar and spread onto the top of the pavlova.  Decorate with the berries.

 

Posted in Christmas, Dessert | 6 Comments

Burritos

Burritos

Summer holidays start in just under 5 weeks!  I can’t believe how fast time is flying.  When we moved to Boulder I just had a couple of weeks to get settled before the uni semester started and I feel like I have been struggling a little with time management but just before Easter I got 2 big assignments done and I am feeling much more in control.  I’ve even been able to dedicate a bit more time here at the blog to share recipes and link up to various social media.  So if you are that way inclined you can look at my Pinterest page, my Facebook page (which has been going for a while now) or my Instagram page (which I only just started) or my Google + page (which I also only just started).  But more importantly, Joel set up a recipe index so it is so much easier now to locate recipes.  Thanks Joel!

And on another note, my lovely friend Alice interviewed me on her blog this week at Perch and Prosper.  I love Alice’s blog as it makes me feel not so far away from home and she also has a gorgeous online store which is well worth checking out.

Burritos

My sister gave me a DVD for my birthday called Mexican Fiesta with Peter Kuruvita. I believe it aired fairly recently on SBS in Australia but I’d never seen it.  I started to watch it over the weekend and it has left me craving Mexican food and with itchy feet for travel.

We love to have tacos and I’m pretty sure the kids would eat them every day of the week if I let them.  I know Joel really misses the Friday burritos at Google in Silicon Valley but he still gets plenty of delicious Mexican food at work here in Boulder too.  When I went there last week for my birthday lunch with Joel we got plates piled high with beef fajitas – grilled capsicum, onions, corn tortillas, beans, salsa, the works!

Burritos

For burritos at home I take some recipes I love and just simplify them and take out the chillies.  The only heat comes from just a tiny bit of chipotle en adobe which adds more depth of flavour than actual heat.  For adults I add a generous amount of hot sauce for heat.  My recipes, I’m sure, are far from authentic Mexican but they work very well for our family and we love them.

Burritos, like tacos, have plenty of room for improvisation and you add almost anything that takes your fancy.  Most burritos I have had have rice in them but I prefer just the chicken (or beef or pork), some beans and then the yummy salsas and guacamole.  But you can add rice if you like to make a more substaintial meal.

Burritos

burritos

large flour tortillas (I use bought ones)
coriander
cheddar cheese, grated
hot sauce

refried black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of sauce from a tin of chipotle en adobe
1 tablespoon coriander stalks, finely chopped
2 x small tins of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 bay leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil.  Saute the onions with a little salt until tender.  Add the garlic, sauce and corainder stalks and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the beans, bay leaves and chicken stock and bring to the boil.  Turn down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes,  stirring often.  Season to taste.

simple chicken tinga

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
a pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 x small tins of crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon of chipotles en adobe, finely chopped
1 BBQ chicken, bones and skin removed and meat shredded
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan.  Add the onion and saute until soft.  Add the garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon and sugar and cook for a further few minutes.  Add the tomatoes and chipotle en adobe.  Bring to the boil then turn down to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Season to taste.  Add the shredded chicken and gently heat through.

basic fresh tomato salsa

3 large tomatoes
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
a handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1 lime
pinch of brown sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Quarter the tomotoes and remove the seeds.  Finely chop the flesh of the tomato and place in a bowl.  Add the remaining ingrediants and season to taste.  You may need to add more lime juice.

basic guacamole

2 ripe avocadoes
1/2 cup of basic fresh tomato salsa
coriander leaves, chopped
lime juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Half the avocados, remove the stone and scoop out the flesh.  Finely chop and place in a bowl.  Add the tomato salsa, a bit of extra coriander leaves, a bit of lime juice and mix all together.  Season to taste.

To assemble the burritos, lay out the tortillas on a board.  Place a couple of spoonfuls of the refried black beans, some chicken tinga, some guacamole, some tomato salsa.  Then top with a little grated cheese, some extra coriander leaves and a few shakes of hot sauce (optional).  Fold in the sides of the tortilla and then roll the burrito up.

Toast the burritos lightly in a dry pan for a couple of minutes on each side over a medium heat or toast in a sandwich press.  Either serve as is or slice in half on the diagonal.

Posted in Family Dinner, Lunch | 3 Comments

Potato and Leek Soup

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The good folks of Boulder need to send me the morning memo about what to wear each day.  Lately there has been a lot of legs and arms on display because spring arrived and yet I have found it so chilly that I’ve still been getting around in my jacket and boots.  But then this morning I went for a run, came home hot and sweaty and jumped in the shower and then got dressed in a skirt and light cardigan.  I decided it was time to dress for spring but I went out the door and froze whilst everyone else was dressed for winter.  Today was so cold and so windy.  So I came home and got back into my warm, snuggy winter gear.

The weather has been up and down but I have been warned that this is normal in April. Yesterday was a gorgeous, warm day for the kids’ sports and a short hike.

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But today we are back to cold weather which calls for warming food like this soup.  Potato and Leek is always a hit with the kids and they especially love it with a crusty baguette.  It is one quick and easy meal.

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potato and leek soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 – 3 leeks, well washed, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
5 large potatoes, peeled and cut in 3cm pieces
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Saute the leeks in the large pot with the olive oil and butter until soft.  Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the potatoes and stock then bring to the boil.  Turn down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are cooked, about 25 minutes.  Puree the soup in a blender or with a stick blender and then stir in the cream and season to taste.

Finish with a good grating of parmesan and serve with a crusty baguette.

Posted in Soup | 2 Comments